A call to action and the dark side of publishing

Darth Vader, Library Page

tl;dr: I published a call to action in the Encyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory and I provide some additional context and thoughts.

In the early summer of 2016, Markus Deimann asked me whether I would consider to author a contribution to the Encyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory, a Springer Publication. Three thoughts almost immediately struck me as odd. For one thing, I never really thought about publishing anything academically. I hold a Bachelor of Science, a degree many ‘serious academics’ don’t take too seriously. Many people I talk to wonder how I can work at a university although I only hold a B.Sc., some simply assume that I have a PhD for some reason. I was invited to conferences and workshops because people held that belief and most of them then try to re-negotiate conditions like a reduced rate when they find out that they were mislead to assume that I have academic credentials. So imagine my surprise when I was asked to write an article for an encyclopedia (thanks again for the opportunity, Markus). More importantly, maybe, I never found much joy in writing papers – never understood how people could love doing this. This might change, you never know. If you take a look at the list of authors for this publication, you will see that all of them are achieved academics who have a serious track record in science and research. To be included in that list is an honor and it seems weird.

My most immediate thought, however, was this: I never considered writing something for a publication administered by one of the large science publishers who would then own the copyright and lock my thoughts and ideas behind a paywall. This seemed even more ironic considering that Markus proposed that I should author a chapter within a section on ‘Open Education’ within the encyclopedia. So imagine me choking on a cold beer on an early summer’s night when he asked me to write something on privacy and security in online learning, a field that interests me but also a field in which I am not a real expert.

After a couple of minutes, I got more comfortable with the idea. The argument that, by publishing in a more traditional format like this, I would increase the chances of reaching those who need to hear my arguments the most, was enough. Also, I was certain that I would not try and write the ‘classic’ encyclopedia entry. Summarizing knowledge, theories, perspectives and practical implications was not what I wanted to do. You could start with Foucault, make theoretical arguments for and against privacy and safety, define what exactly is meant by all the terms and phrases used and then move on and find implications for online learning. And that would be great if it is what you are good at (in writing). I aimed for a more practical approach and I did not mean to pretend that there was a single answer or solution. Even though I wanted to include some of the people who already do great work around questions of privacy and safety in online learning, I wanted to say that more of this is needed and that these issues cannot be left to a few people but that, no matter what you do in the realm of online learning, you need to care about privacy, security and safety of learners and educators. So I ended up writing a call to action, which may seem silly when you are deep in the topic already. Still, I am certain that a majority of people in online learning and edtech rarely consider issues like these. I know plenty of people who wave anyone off as a nay-sayer when they are exposed to critical questions on the use of data analysis, learning analytics and metadata. I just hope that Docotorow’s claim of peak indifference is true and that more people will be persuaded to tackle these tough questions when they design and implement edtech and online teaching. If this article contributes to that, great. If it doesn’t, it still was an exercise for me. Let me know what you think about it. I uploaded a copy of the text to academia.edu to make it a bit more accessible. If you would rather access it via Springer, here’s a link.

Header image by asfrederick via Flickr under CC BY 2.0

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